During his first five seasons as the Ravens head coach, John Harbaugh led his team to the playoffs. Since the Super Bowl 47 win, the Ravens have been postseason participants just once, leading many observers to believe that one more season on the outside looking in come playoff time, could spell Harbaugh’s demise.
This offseason the Ravens invested heavily in their defense and they are betting that a return to defensive dominance is the quickest path to the playoffs. Don’t be surprised if odds in a live casino concur.
The Ravens first four draft picks were all defenders and their big free agent splash was S Tony Jefferson. They later added CB Brandon Carr and they signed SCB Brandon Boykin to fill in for the injured Tavon Young. Given the improvements to the secondary and the young pass rushers (Tyus Bowser and Tim Williams), the Ravens should improve markedly on defense.
That said the Ravens will struggle offensively. They hope to commit to the run but they’ve done little to bolster the offensive line while losing two 2016 starters, C Jeremy Zuttah and RT Rick Wagner. They will also be without promising RB Kenneth Dixon who will start the season on a four-game suspension for using banned substances.
Making things even more challenging is that they have to replace Joe Flacco’s two favorite pass weapons, Steve Smith, Sr. (retirement) and Dennis Pitta (hip injury). They have talent, particularly after the addition of WR Jeremy Maclin. But the Ravens will need some young guys to stay health and step up if they plan on besting their 21st ranked point total in 2016. And Joe Flacco needs to play to the level of his pay.
There can be no more excuses for Flacco. He carries the league’s highest cap figure into the 2017 season and if his performance looks more like 2016 instead of that which carried the team into the postseason and through the playoffs in 2012, his contract will be like an organizational noose. Alternative plans will then have to be set in motion.
When all is said, and done in 2017, the Ravens will fall just short of the playoffs but the season will be deemed a success and a stepping stone towards a serious challenge for the title in 2018.
And when that happens, the Ravens will be perennial contenders for quite a while.